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Montreal Horse Drawn Carriages Draw Protests
 By Winniefield Park   •   22nd May 2016   •   940 views   •   0 comments


Montreal is a beautiful city. There seems to be a festival every weekend. Old Montreal is charming, historical and very touristy, with lovely shops and eateries. There are open air markets during the summer. And, if you are inclined, you can enjoy a calèche ride to see the early architecture and scenic cultural and tourist spots. And, considering how Montrealers drive, a leisurely calèche or horse drawn carriage ride through the narrow streets of the most touristy area sounds like the way to go.

But like New York, Victoria, BC, Salzberg, Austria and other cities, many are saying that the horse drawn carriages have to go. Recently, a video showing a horse that got away from its driver after the vehicle it was hitched to was clipped by a car, go to its knees several times, has gone viral. And, that has reopened the debate on whether it’s time for the horse drawn carriage trade to come to an end.

Like their counterparts in many others cities, carriage horses are exposed to noise, extremes in heat and cold, motor vehicle exhaust, unforgiving footing, rush hour traffic (I’ve driven there long ago - it seemed to be always rush hour). Montreal can be bitterly cold in the winter and brutally hot and humid in the summer. There are by-laws in place to prevent horses from being worked over 30C, but many say they are rarely enforced.

Related: Is it Time To End Horse Drawn Carriages in New York City
Related: Gili Trawangan Remote Tourist Island Culture of Abused Ponies

Some claim that calèches are a part of a 350 year tradition in the city. Although they were once decorated lavishly with flowers, bright colors and fabrics, today’s vehicles are simpler, and may be pulled by a draft or light horse, some which appear to be in poor condition. There have been complaints that the vehicles were rickety, the horses unhealthy and the drivers apathetic. Several years ago, the city attempted to reduce the number of calèche operators, so that there would be less competition for the fewer number of tourists that were engaging their services. This would permit them to charge more competitive prices, allowing them to earn more money to upgrade and care for their equipment and horses. The goal at that time was to reduce the number of carriages in operation to twenty.

Protesters recently gathered outside of Montreal City Hall a historic building on some calèche driver’s tour route, asking the city’s mayor to ban the carriage trade. There have been accusations of overwork and abuse. The Montreal SPCA has seized horses in the past, one after it collapsed and was kicked by its driver. A team of two twenty year old horses were taken and placed in retirement. Horses work from six to nine hours a day. Griffintown Horse Palace is one of the oldest stables, built in 1862. There remains only a few horses and calèches at the stable now, and it is surrounded by the noise of construction as condos are being built up around them. The building is in poor repair, with limited turnout for the horses. Pictures of stables, some taken by an employee ‘under cover’ show narrow, soiled stalls, poor drainage and open walls that will do nothing to stop winter winds and rain. There have also been allegations that horses are routinely administered ‘bute’ a pain killer, with several horses being injected using the same needle.

Currently, there are about twenty-three calèches operating. But critics claim that they are giving the city a bad name. Unless conditions for the horses change dramatically in a short time, it may be, some say, time to ban them all together.

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http://anovelwoman.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-griffintown-horse-palace.html
http://globalnews.ca/news/2111837/fallen-horse-in-downtown-montreal-reignites-animal-rights-debate/
http://gocanada.about.com/od/montrealattractions/tp/things-not-to-do-in-Montreal.htm
http://globalnews.ca/news/2111837/fallen-horse-in-downtown-montreal-reignites-animal-rights-debate/
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